Smile Politely

Five things in music: October 2023

In the image, there’s a person playing a guitar. They are wearing a cowboy hat and a floral shirt. The image is in black and white, and the background is dark and blurred.
Adeem the Artist on Facebook

October is shaping up to be a monumental month for music lovers in Champaign-Urbana. With events ranging from the soulful melodies of the Folk and Roots Festival to the grassroots vibe of Hogchute Harvest, and from the seasoned artistry of Mary Chapin Carpenter and Shawn Colvin to the complex rhythms of the Jazz Festival, there’s no shortage of musical experiences to be had. And don’t forget the authentic Americana sounds of Dale Watson at the Rose Bowl Tavern. Clear your calendars, folks, because you won’t want to miss any of it. Here’s a little bit more on what to expect this musical month:

Champaign-Urbana Folk and Roots Festival, October 12th – 14th

The C-U Folk and Roots Festival is back, taking over our beloved town from October 12th to the 14th. If you’re in the mood for acoustic guitars, fiddles, and vocals that narrate life’s complexities, this is your sanctuary. There’s just something about folk music that grabs you by the soul and doesn’t let go. Here are some of the featured artists this year:

Adeem the Artist takes the stage with their poetic narrative and Appalachian-influenced tunes that beautifully navigate faith, sexual identity, and self-acceptance. They’ve been critically acclaimed for their fresh perspective and emotional vulnerability, notably in their latest album, White Trash Revelry. With Adeem, expect to be disarmed by comedy and punched in the gut by candor — often in the same verse.

Dom Flemons, also known as “The American Songster,” is someone you won’t want to miss. This guy is a music historian, a multi-instrumentalist, and a GRAMMY nominee. He digs up forgotten folk songs, gives them new life, and delivers them through his mastery of, well, pretty much every instrument you could think of. If you appreciate the layers and legacy of American folk music, Dom’s performance will be like stepping into a living museum.

If you think the alto sax isn’t a roots music instrument, Eddie Barbash is set to prove you wrong. Known as a founding member of Jon Batiste’s Stay Human, the house band for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, this man takes American roots to another level. Expect a mix of fiddle tunes, bluegrass, R&B, and more. Essentially, it’s gonna be a genre-blending fiesta that’ll make you rethink the saxophone’s place in American music.

An act I’m personally excited about is Hooten Hallers from Columbia, MO. This trio, featuring bass and baritone saxophonist Kellie Everett, threatens to knock the walls down of Rose Bowl Tavern with their bluesy, rootsy, lively rock and roll. They’ll deliver a high-energy set sure to get you moving and grooving, and maybe ducking for cover. Look for my article on them in Smile Politely next week. See the full lineup for the festival here.

The festival promises to be a well-rounded experience, offering more than just live performances. There are workshops, storytelling sessions, and opportunities to meet and interact with the artists. Whether you’re a seasoned folk music aficionado or just looking to expand your musical horizons, this festival is a soulful way to spend your weekend. You’ll walk away not just with tunes stuck in your head but with stories that tug at your heart. Check out my interview with festival director Cody Jensen about this amazing event here.

Hogchute Harvest Festival, October 7th

The Hogchute Harvest Festival on October 7th is not just another musical event; it’s a local experience through and through. Taking place at the Kalyx Center for Sustainability in Monticello, the festival boasts a line-up that’s as diverse as the crowd it attracts. From indie to folk to rock, there’s a little something for everyone. And in an atmosphere that feels like a large family gathering, you’ll find yourself jamming to tunes while feeling like you’re part of a bigger community. This year’s artists include:

  • Aubrie Powell
  • Big Daddy Pride
  • Brad Handsome
  • Husky Martinez
  • The Joy Machine
  • Matt Talbott
  • Turner Rives, Banjo Songster
  • Vestiges

The Hogchute Harvest Fest takes place on Saturday, October 7th at 3 p.m., so come prepared to soak in a day’s worth of music. What sets this event apart is its grassroots vibe — think of it as the epitome of what Champaign-Urbana’s music scene has to offer, with many local artists in attendance as well. With artists performing and an audience that’s there for the love of music and community, this is a festival that should be on everyone’s October must-do list. Bring your camping gear and stay the night to enjoy the jam around the bonfire after the main festivities end. Look for my article about this great local fest in tomorrow’s Smile Politely.

Mary Chapin Carpenter and Shawn Colvin, October 14th

Another highlight for this jam-packed October is the performance by Mary Chapin Carpenter and Shawn Colvin on the 14th at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts. These are artists that have been shaping the sound of American music for years. Their show promises a night of emotional resonance, poetic lyrics, and, of course, top-tier musicianship. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more evocative duo to spend an evening with.

Both artists bring their own unique flavors to the stage — Mary Chapin Carpenter with her blend of country and folk, and Shawn Colvin with her intricate, emotive songwriting. Taking place the same weekend as the Folk and Roots Festival wraps up, this concert provides another avenue for those looking to dive deep into the storytelling aspects of music.

Dale Watson at Rose Bowl Tavern, October 24th

Closing the gap between the Folk & Roots Festival and the Jazz Festival is the legendary Dale Watson at the Rose Bowl Tavern on Tuesday the 24th. If you’re a fan of anything that falls under the broad umbrella of American roots music, you’ll find something to love in Watson’s performance. With his honky-tonk vibes and Americana roots, he’s a musical force to be reckoned with.

Set in the cozy and iconic Rose Bowl Tavern, the venue itself will add a layer of authenticity to Watson’s performance. The tavern has a knack for hosting musicians that offer more than just a setlist — they offer an experience. When Dale Watson takes the stage, expect a journey through traditional American music, delivered with passion and skill. It’s the perfect warm-up to the jazz-infused weekend that follows.

Champaign-Urbana Jazz Festival, October 26-29

Swinging into town from October 26th to the 29th is the Champaign-Urbana Jazz Festival. This is your chance to immerse yourself in the sultry, complex world of jazz. If your musical diet needs some spice, look no further. Jazz has this inherent freedom and improvisation that’s hard to find in other genres.

Not just for the jazz purist, this festival appeals to music lovers across the spectrum. With a variety of performers and activities, the event offers a glimpse into the future of jazz as well as its storied past. So, why not let the rhythms and improvisations of jazz sweep you away for a weekend? Trust me, you won’t regret it.

So, clear your calendars, folks. October in Champaign-Urbana is looking to be an exceptional month for music lovers. If you see me and my big bald head bobbing up and down to the music around town this month, tap me on the shoulder and say “Hi!”.

Music Editor

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